Sometimes, when you’re inside a group or organization, that group’s interests take on an importance far beyond anything else.
Take part in a service organization, and you might find yourself embroiled in a huge discussion over whether a motion is in order, or whether the rules were properly followed when the last slate of the executive was elected.
Small things can completely overwhelm an organization, leaving it expending tremendous amounts of scarce energy — and sometimes finances as well — arguing over issues as esoteric and unnecessary as determining how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
And that brings us to the House of Assembly, and last week’s filibuster.
Filibusters are a particularly stylized portion of political business: unable to bring about functional change through the normal processes of government, opposition parties instead decide to jam a stick in the procedural spokes.
Instead of letting the debate on a bill chug along through the normal process, opposition parties either propose row after row of amendments, or more simply, refuse to stop talking about the bill in question.
Governments are then left with two options: either let the opposition members talk themselves out, or else impose closure, stopping the debate and allowing themselves to be accused of all manner of anti-democratic sins.
The politicians themselves — and often the political reporters covering the events — get caught up, sometimes almost giddily, in the process. Up all night — refusing to stop debating. It’s a rite of passage for new politicians and reporters, some sprouting whiskers and others sporting unkempt clothes, a kind of legislative call to arms where surviving the event is a measure of your depth of experience.
But in terms of the world of measurable results, a filibuster — especially in this province’s political system — is, more than anything else, a waste of time.
What has the filibuster changed? Nothing. What did all that time talking actually achieve? Nothing again, except to point out once again that the House of Assembly allows ignorant behaviour that would be deemed abusive bullying in any other workplace in this province.
Sure, you can put the best face on it and talk about how the issue was fully brought into the public eye, but that’s only window dressing.
It was many, many exhausting hours for a select few MHAs and political reporters. But in the end result, the symbolic opposition was watched by few, ignored by many, and, in terms of its actual result, could easily be classed as a complete waste of time.
And it’s the second time this year we’ve sat through this particular theatre.
We need to improve the way this province’s legislature works. Having government simply trot out legislation, consider no changes to its road map and have debate consist merely of government members talking about how great their government is — while the opposition, well, opposes — does not create better legislation.
We need the best we can get.